Full Text

India has failed to keep its promise to pay Rs 6,000 to every mother

Academics and activists write a letter to the prime minister urging him to implement the modest maternity allowance under the National Food Security Act.

India accounts for 17% of all maternal deaths in the world. The country’s maternal mortality ratio was 167 per 100,000 live births in 2013. This means an estimated 44,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth in India every year. That’s 120 maternal deaths every day.

The country’s record on infant mortality is equally dismal: 40 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2013. Every year, more than one million children die before they complete their first year.

The main cause of high maternal mortality is poor nutrition, compounded by inadequate care during pregnancy. Many women are unable to afford leave before and after childbirth.

In 2010, the government launched the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana, which gave a modest allowance of Rs 4,000 to pregnant and lactating mothers in 53 districts.

The National Food Security Act, which was passed in July 2013, provided a universal maternity benefit of Rs 6,000. Three years later, the maternity benefit under the Act is yet to be implemented.

On Monday, November 21, a day ahead of public meetings organised by the Right to Food campaign across India, more than 60 academics and activists wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to implement the maternity benefit under the National Food Security Act.

“The nation is paying a heavy price for this violation of the Act,” the letter said. “Maternity entitlements are essential to address India’s staggering problem of low birth weights, poor maternal health and severe hardship during pregnancy.”

The letter was signed by members of the National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights, Alliance for Right to Early Child Development, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Right to Food campaign, among others.

Shri Narendra Modi

Prime Minister of India

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing to draw your attention to the continued denial of women’s rights to maternity entitlements under the National Food Security Act 2013 (NFSA) and beyond.

Section 4(b) of the NFSA provides for maternity entitlements of Rs 6,000 for all pregnant women (except regular public sector employees, who currently have more substantial entitlements in keeping with global norms). This is one of the most important provisions of the Act. However, the Central Government has completely ignored it. The law has been grossly violated for more than three years, without any justification whatsoever.

Questioned by the Supreme Court on this, the Ministry of Women and Child Development filed a very misleading affidavit on 30 October 2015, claiming that it was planning to extend the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) from 53 “pilot districts” to 200 districts in 2015-6 and to all districts in 2016-7. Contrary to this claim, the budget allocation for IGMSY in the 2016-7 Union Budget remains a measly Rs 400 crore (as in 2015-16 and 2014-15), making it impossible to go beyond the 53 pilot districts. Universal maternity entitlements of Rs 6,000 per child, a very modest and outdated norm, would require an annual allocation of Rs 15,000 crore at the very least.

The nation is paying a heavy price for this violation of the Act. Maternity entitlements are essential to address India’s staggering problem of low birth weights, poor maternal health and severe hardship during pregnancy. Ensuring rest for the mother after delivery, six months of exclusive breastfeeding and appropriate care for the child needs a number of supportive measures including maternity entitlements. 

Maternity entitlements are required not just to improve maternal and child health but also in recognition of women as workers. Further, for child safety and support to parents, appropriate arrangements for crèches need to be made. What is in fact required is a comprehensive legislation ensuring unconditional maternity entitlements of at least minimum wages and child care for all children, in place of the current Maternity Benefits Act. Implementing the universal maternity entitlements under the NFSA would be a useful first step towards the goal of ensuring the right to maternity entitlements and child care services for all.

We urge you to recognise this lapse, abide by the law, and ensure that universal maternity entitlements are provided for without delay.

Photo credit: Dipa Sinha
Photo credit: Dipa Sinha
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.